In accordance with my odd habit of reading classical and sometimes rather arcane stuff, I’ve recently been reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. It’s a fascinating read, and for having written this around 1800 years ago, this Roman Emperor had some insights that still apply today – some almost uncannily. A few of these are here, followed with my thoughts.
Moreover I learned of him to write letters without any affectation, or curiosity; such as that was, which by him was written to my mother from Sinuessa: and to be easy and ready to be reconciled, and well pleased again with them that had offended me, as soon as any of them would be content to seek unto me again. To read with diligence; not to rest satisfied with a light and superficial knowledge, nor quickly to assent to things commonly spoken of…
“To read with diligence.” How many people do that any more? It took me years to learn to seek out differing viewpoints; the Old Man used to exhort me to vigorously challenge my own opinions, but I was probably in my forties before I really took that advice to heart, and it did result in my changing my mind on a few issues. My current worldview, that of a somewhat prickly minarchist libertarian, arose from my following of that advice. And “…nor quickly to assent to things commonly spoken of” applies as well. In simple, modern English: The “common wisdom” usually isn’t.
And these your professed politicians, the only true practical philosophers of the world, (as they think of themselves) so full of affected gravity, or such professed lovers of virtue and honesty, what wretches be they in very deed; how vile and contemptible in themselves?
Boy howdy! Does this ever apply to most modern pols. “…what wretches they be in very deed,” as in profiting hugely from their service, even if it’s indirectly; say, by laundering bribe money from a Ukrainian oil company by placing your useless, coke-head, prostitute-impregnating son in a plush “position” on their Board of Directors.
This kind of fits in with the first item, doesn’t it? When used as a verb, ‘reason’ may be defined as to “think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.” Now read Twitter, or
FaceDerpbook, or any of the other various and sundry social media outlets, and see how many people you think are thinking, understanding and forming opinions by a process of logic. I can answer that in advance: Almost none.
He that runs away from his master is a fugitive. But the law is every man’s master. He therefore that forsakes the law, is a fugitive. So is he, whosoever he be, that is either sorry, angry, or afraid, or for anything that either hath been, is, or shall be by his appointment, who is the Lord and Governor of the universe.
The key takeaway from this? “…the law is every man’s master.” But today, the law is not every man’s master; too many people (like, say, Bill Clinton) get away with too much, with too many things, that common people never would. “…the law is every man’s master” is another way of saying “equal treatment under the law,” which is, as we have documented many times in these virtual pages, effectively dead in this country today.
Marcus Aurelius was in many ways no prize by today’s standards. He was an Emperor, by definition an autocrat. But he was the last of what Machiavelli more-or-less accurately described as the “Five Good Emperors,” and the Roman historian wrote of him “…alone of the emperors, he gave proof of his learning not by mere words or knowledge of philosophical doctrines but by his blameless character and temperate way of life.” His Meditations, these eighteen centuries later, are still worth reading – and reflecting upon. Some of our political employees would do well to mark his words.